Steven Soderbergh is going to double down on TV advertising for his forthcoming iPhone-shot horror film Unsane following social media experiments with Logan Lucky. The Sex, Lies and Videotape director also revealed that he is going to film his next project using the same digital methods.
Soderbergh was speaking at the Berlin Film Festival to promote Unsane, which stars The Crown’s Claire Foy and Blair Witch Project’s Joshua Leonard and follows a young woman who is involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
Unsane will be released in the U.S. via his own Fingerprint Releasing and Bleecker Street on March 23, while New Regency has taken international rights and will distribute via 20th Century Fox International.
Soderbergh says he wasn’t initially going to release Unsane theatrically and had originally planned to release the movie via a streaming platform. However, he said: “It wasn’t until we got back from shooting that I watched the film for the first time in a digital coloring suite and I thought maybe we should go [theatrical] and the conversation shifted.”
He said that he would reverse the way that he promotes Unsane compared to Logan Lucky, which made $27.8M Stateside and close to $45M worldwide, and relied heavily on social media spending rather than television advertising. “What we learned [on Logan Lucky] was that, at my insistence, most of our marketing money was used to drop content into social media, that was my part of the experiment. We discovered that the people we were trying to reach, they would engage in the social media, but this turned out to be a discreet activity that didn’t turn into them buying a movie ticket. We’ve decided to invert that structure and I am actually doing the thing that I used to blame people for doing, to buy a lot of TV. When people don’t see your movie on TV, they don’t think it’s real.
Soderbergh also discussed the way the film, which was written by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer, was shot, entirely on an Apple iPhone. He said the main advantage was that he could put the lens anywhere “in a matter of seconds”. “The ability to watch a rehearsal and then immediately go into shooting keeps energy level going,” he said.
He added that it will be “tricky to go back to a more conventional way of shooting” and revealed that his next project, which begins filming next week, will use the same method. He didn’t, however, reveal which film he was referring to, whether he was discussing his forthcoming Panama Papers project or action thriller Planet Kill, the Studio 8 project written by Greer and Contagion’s Scott Z. Burns that he was reportedly considering directing.
The film, which was shot in two weeks, deals with issues of abuse of power. However, the film was shot in June 2017, months before the Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey scandals kicked off the #metoo movement around October. “These are issues that have been around forever so if the film takes on layer of topicality it’s pure coincidence but I’m interested in these kinds of dynamics. Not just gender dynamics, but power dynamics, what happens to people when they get trapped in a system designed to strip people of their identity.
Soderbergh, who announced his retirement from film in 2013, also explained that he became “reactivated” by working on TV drama The Knick. “I think I confused some of my frustration with the movie business… and on that show I enjoyed my job. Once I got back to work, I decided to keep working so this film more than any of the others since I went back felt very much like a return to a kind of filmmaking I indulged in when I was a teenager so it was pleasure.”